Huelva will host the largest biofuels plant in southern Europe

Cepsa and Bio-Oils, Apical's biofuels company, have laid the first stone in Palos de la Frontera (Huelva) of what will be the largest second-generation biofuels plant in southern Europe. Created from agricultural waste or used cooking oils, the relevance of 2G biofuels lies in the fact that they are an immediate solution to decarbonize transportation, without the need to change current engines, which currently account for 15% of global CO2 emissions. .

Furthermore, it is a strategic technology to achieve the energy transition proposed by Europe, since it can reduce emissions by up to 90% compared to traditional fuels. For example, the construction of this mega facility, which will allow Cepsa and Bio-Oils to double the current production capacity of second generation biofuels, up to one million tons.

Per year, the new plant will flexibly produce 500,000 tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel (HVO). Located next to the La Rábida Energy Park, the complex will begin production in 2026. During its construction and operation, it is expected to generate more than 2,000 direct and indirect jobs. A development of magnitude, which represents an investment of 1,200 million euros.

All these data have been known in an event that included the participation of Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, president of the Junta de Andalucía; Teresa Ribera, third vice president and minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge; Maarten Wetselaar, CEO of Cepsa; Anderson Tanoto, director of RGE – a group of manufacturing companies based on natural resources, including Apical and Bio-Oils; and Pratheepan Karunagaran, director of Apical.

In addition to SAF and HVO, the facility will also produce biogas, the raw material for green hydrogen, with which nearby industries can be decarbonized. Additionally, biogenic CO2 is captured from the treatment of biogas, essential to produce green methanol with which to decarbonize sea transport. For all these reasons, the plant becomes a key piece in the ecosystem of the Andalusian Valley of Green Hydrogen. Its construction, those in charge of it indicate, will enable the development of other key projects for the repositioning of Spain and Andalusia in the international energy panorama.

“Andalusia is ready to become the great producer and distributor of clean energy in Europe,” Moreno Bonilla celebrated, adding that “this future Cepsa biofuels plant is a clear and valuable example. A project included in our Project Accelerator Unit, which has allowed it to be processed in six months, less than half of what it would normally have taken.

Minimal environmental impact

The construction, the promoters assure, will have a minimal environmental impact. It will consume renewable hydrogen, 100% renewable electricity and use different heat recovery and energy efficiency systems, so it will emit 75% less CO2 than a traditional biofuel plant. In the medium term, it is designed to achieve net zero emissions. Likewise, it will not consume fresh water, but will only use recovered water and will incorporate a powerful treatment plant.

«We began to materialize the first major milestone of Cepsa's Positive Motion strategy (for 2030) with the construction of our new second-generation biofuels plant. This strategic project for Spain and Andalusia will allow us to be a European benchmark in the field of green molecules and will facilitate the immediate decarbonization of non-electrifiable sectors, such as air transport. We are thus beginning a process that will generate quality employment for this region and that will open a new stage of reindustrialization,” recalled Wetselaar, CEO of Cepsa, during the event.

Cepsa's objective, through its roadmap, seems clear: to accelerate decarbonization and that of its clients by relying on the production of green molecules, mainly renewable hydrogen (and its derivatives) and 2G biofuels, to become a benchmark for the energy transition. With this complex, Cepsa is also getting closer to its goal of leading 2G production not only in Spain, but also in Portugal. According to its documents, the company aims to have an annual production capacity of 2.5 million tons of biofuels in this decade, of which 800,000 tons will be SAF, a sufficient amount to fly over the planet 2,000 times.